15. Jeff Kightlinger
Drought or not, water is always a critical issue in California, and Jeff Kightlinger is right in the middle of it. Kightlinger is the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the huge wholesaler that gets water to two dozen agencies serving 19 million people – half the state’s population. His big push now is to get approval for Gov. Brown’s plan to drill tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to move water south through the California Aqueduct – and thence to Los Angeles. A lot is riding on the outcome of the $17.1 billion project, especially for ratepayers, who will foot much of the bill. The MWD has been involved in years of litigation with the San Diego County Water Authority – MWD’s biggest member agency – over rates and delivery issues. In June, an appeals court ruling prompted both sides to declare victory, and the upshot is that the case ultimately will go to the state Supreme Court. Fun fact: Kightlinger’s Twitter feed reveals a deep, and some might say surprising, fondness for late ‘70s punk and new wave music.
Updated Aug. 29, 2017